Replacement for Yellowknife’s JH Sissons will be Įtł’ǫ̀ School

Last modified: January 11, 2022 at 8:58pm


The school being constructed on the site of Yellowknife’s former JH Sissons will be known as Įtł’ǫ̀ School after the name was approved by the YK1 board of trustees.

The name Įtł’ǫ̀ reflects a Wılıı̀deh word for cranberry, trustee Doreen Cleary said. Įtł’ǫ̀ School is expected to open in August 2022 on the site where JH Sissons stood for 45 years.

Approval came at a meeting of trustees on Tuesday evening and followed three months of work to generate suggestions for a name.

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In a news release, the YK1 school district said a committee of current and former staff, parents, and community members had chosen the name in consultation with Indigenous leaders.

The site of the school, YK1 said, was formerly a popular berry-picking location for Dene families.

Trustee Tina Drew said picking cranberries formed “a nurturing activity and that’s what education is, it’s to nurture our souls.”

School board chair Terry Brookes said cranberry is “the ultimate local name” for the school.

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“This area was known for its cranberries and cranberries traditionally have been seen as a local medicine and nutritious food,” Brookes said.

He added Įtł’ǫ̀ School was the “corporate name” of the school, and how exactly that name would be used – and would appear at the school – was “the branding side of things,” which remains in development.

Listen to Doreen Cleary pronounce the school’s name during Tuesday’s meeting.

Pronunciation of the name – given as “EE-k-lo” phonetically by YK1, though said with a little more nuance by Wılıı̀deh speakers – did not come easily to all of the school board’s trustees during Tuesday’s meeting.

“I will practise the proper pronunciation,” Brookes said. “I’m quite prepared to be corrected every time and therefore I will will learn to say it correctly, because it’s a word that’s going to be with many students’ minds for many, many years to come.”

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Told the board had agreed a new name for his school, Graham Arts – the last principal of JH Sissons and the first principal of Įtł’ǫ̀ – said: “Actually, I have a name for a new school.”

Arts added: “We are going to be working very hard to make sure that students understand the reasoning behind it and it’s something that stays with them for a good long time.”

‘Commitment to reconciliation’

Opened in 1975, École JH Sissons was dismantled in the summer of 2020 after serving the city most recently as a French immersion-only elementary school.

John H Sissons, for whom the old school was named, was an Ontario-born teacher, politician, and lawyer who, in 1955, became the first judge appointed to what is now the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories.

Sissons was presiding when, in 1966, Everett George Klippert was sentenced indefinitely as a “dangerous sexual offender” for his homosexuality – making Sissons the last Canadian judge to send someone to jail for being gay.

In September, YK1 said the new school would bear a name “that aligns with our core values and our commitment to reconciliation.”

Most Sissons students moved to William McDonald Middle School for the two years of construction. Some moved to Sir John Franklin High School.